The all-Jewish village of Sundur in Kurdistan

Relations between Kurds and Jews – or between Kurdistan and Israel – are at their most harmonious at the moment. But it was not ever thus, as the history of the Jewish village of Sundur (Sandur) demonstrates.

 According to Wikipedia:

“In ancient times the place had been inhabited by Assyrian Christians. and was later inhabited by Kurds and Jews after the Christians deserted it.[3]

In 1849, Sandur was described as an extensive village, containing over 100 Jewish households with a few inhabited by Kurds.[4] By the first half of the 20th century, the village was entirely Jewish.[3] All the village lands belonged to Jews who worked in the vineyards and orchards of pears, plums, pomegranates and apples.[3]

In 1933 there were about 60 Jewish families.[1]
In 1934, Benzion Israeli found 800 inhabitants and wrote that “Sandur
is a state of its own … this is a Jewish village, an autonomous Jewish
In 1935, Walter Schwarz visited the village and gave a detailed report.
He noted that it was inhabited only by Jews and that the fields and
vineyards were well kept and yielded good crops.[5]

Relations between Jews and Muslims were not always cordial. The Jews of Sundur were disturbed by Muslims working on the Sabbath. They asked a judge to ask the Kurds to move  to the outskirts of the village, and this is why Sundur became an all-Jewish village. The Kurds agreed, but the Jews had to buy their houses, which they did.

Conditions deteriorated once Iraq acquired its independence in 1932. The Jews suffered sporadic attacks in the lead-up to the Farhud pogrom of June 1941.

In the British National Archives at Kew Point of No Return came across a Mosul police report sent to the British embassy in Baghdad in February 1941  about a mini-pogrom on Sundur resulting in the killing of six men, including the (Jewish) Mukhtar. The report claims that the raid on Sundur was the result of a ten-year-old vendetta with the neighbouring village of Yakmula and not ‘political’. The Mukhtar of Sundur had inquired about stolen animals during his courtesy visit for Eid.

 According to Wikipedia, there were further disturbances:

” On December
17, 1942, anti-Jewish riots resulted in the murder of eight Jews in the
In 1943, Friedrich Simon Bodenheimer visited Sandur for an evening. He
found the atmosphere disturbed by the “unfriendly attitude of the
neighbouring Kurdish villages.” He claimed the Jews could not even sell
their land, as the Kurds said “We will soon get it for nothing!”[9] With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, things got worse for Iraq’s Jews who were portrayed as Zionists. Their freedom of movement was restricted and many lost their jobs.[6] In 1949 there were still about 100 families living in Sandur.[2]

On March 9, 1950, a law was passed which apparently depicted Jews as
unprotected aliens. Soon after, rural Jews faced a worsening economic
situation and felt increasingly vulnerable. In early June, it was
reported that the neighbouring villages were threatening to murder the
people of Sandur unless they left the village. The villagers were among
the first wave of Jews who left the countryside for Baghdad to sign up for emigration.[6] Within the next few years, the remaining 500 Jews of Sandur emigrated to Israel.[10]”

More about Jews in Kurdistan


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